U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on May 21 announced a proposal to open more than 248,000 acres to new or expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 30 national wildlife refuges.
The proposal also outlines expanded hunting and fishing opportunities at 136 national wildlife refuges. If finalized, this would bring the number of units of the National Wildlife Refuge System where the public may hunt to 377, and the number where fishing would be permitted to 312.
“As stewards of our public lands, Interior is committed to opening access wherever possible for hunting and fishing so that more families have the opportunity to pass down this American heritage,” Zinke said.
The proposal also takes steps to simplify regulations to more closely match state hunting and fishing regulations. The changes would be implemented in time for the upcoming 2018-2019 hunting seasons.
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $156 billion in economic activity in communities across the United States in 2016 according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 101 million Americans – 40 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older – pursue wildlife-related recreation.
Sport fishing will expand on the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey, New York), and on the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge (Oregon).
Public comments will be accepted on the proposed rule for 30 days, beginning with publication in the Federal Register. The notice will be available at www.regulations.gov, docket no. FWS-HQ-NWRS-2018-0020, and will include details on how to submit comments. An interim copy of the proposed rule is now available here.